When the Vikings made it clear that pass-rushing defensive end Jared Allen wasn’t going to be returning to the team after the 2013 season, Vikings fans weren’t sure it was the right move because Everson Griffen was largely unproven and a part-time defensive end in the Vikings system.
Two months into his time as a full-time starter, Griffen is third in the league with eight sacks and is being recognized for his dominating performance, being named NFC Defensive Player of the Month.
Griffen’s level of play has been increasing with each game and his ascent up the sacks chart was recognized by the league, but he sees his improvement correlating with the rest of the defensive line picking up on the new defensive scheme.
“It’s a good honor,” Griffen said. “I just have to go out there and keep on working. I’ve got to stay consistent and keep on doing my job like I’ve been doing to help this team win. It’s a team game and we just want to win here.”
Griffen was humbled by the honor, but he believes there is a long way to go in his career as a defensive end for the Vikings. He thinks he is merely scratching the surface and that there is a lot more upside to his game and the achievements that may come with that – both individual and team accomplishments.
“I’m excited, but I can’t let this accolade become something that I think I’ve arrived,” Griffen said. “I haven’t yet. There’s still more to come, and I’ve still got to be able to go out there and just keep on doing my job each and every day.”
Griffen was the player who was singled out, but he gave the credit to the other defensive linemen that have helped the Vikings continue to climb the chart of teams sacks – Brian Robison, Sharrif Floyd, Linval Joseph, Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen.
As Griffen views it, without the rest of the D-linemen that contributed to the success the defense has enjoyed in recent weeks, his personal achievement wouldn’t have happened.
“The whole defensive line, we’ve been playing well,” Griffen said. “We’re second in the league in sacks, and we’ve just got to keep it coming. You can’t do it all by yourself.”
His teammates share Griffen’s enthusiasm and felt he was more the deserving of the honor. He has quickly become the face of the defensive line and his teammates have witnessed the incremental improvement firsthand as the season has rolled along and he has become more adept in the concepts of Zimmer’s defensive scheme.
“I’m happy for him,” Joseph said. “He’s been working his butt off. We’re going one game at a time and every game he’s getting a little better, so let’s just keep it up.”
Zimmer hammered home the point of team defense earlier this month. For his defense to be effective, the four down linemen on the field need to work as a unit.
Zimmer’s defensive front mindset is based on having all four players executing their assignment on a given play to force the action behind the line of scrimmage. On one play, Griffen may force a quarterback off his spot and into Johnson. Floyd or Joseph can get inside penetration and force the quarterback into the waiting arms of Griffen or Robison. It’s a group effort based on four players playing as one, and the recent success is due to taking the talking points taught at practice and in film study and putting them into practical application on the field.
“He got the award, but, as a whole, we all have to perform,” Joseph said. “We all feel like we had a little part in that, so that’s good. He’s happy and we’re happy. We just want to keep elevating it from there.”
Griffen was singled out as one of the elite defensive players in the NFL. It was an honor he earned and deserved. But, as far as Griffen is concerned, he won’t be satisfied until he or a teammate gets the next Defensive Player of the Month honor … and they’re out to get another one soon.
“At the end of the day, I’m happy with the award, but it’s time to get back to work,” Griffen said. “Now I’ve got to go out there and try to get it the next month and just keep on building on it and don’t let this be the ending point of me and just let it make me hungrier.”
Griffen: ‘More to come’ for him, defense
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